So what I’m going to be suggesting, therefore, is that we have with Symonds not just one but several Antinouses functioning within different discourses. Another thing that I want to say in general first of all about Symonds is that, of course, Symonds never saw anything remotely like the exhibition we’ve seen here. There’s an enormous difference between the culture of images which he took for granted, and the one we inhabit, although it’s hardly more than a century ago. The figure describing the practice of contemporary museums and galleries – the rhetorical figure which I would suggest is the dominant one – is that of transumption: ‘far-fetching’, in the sense of bringing things from afar to come together on a scale that was never done at all until the past quarter century or so. Symonds, by contrast, belonged to that generation of people – you might call them late Romantics – for whom travel was not just a kind of pleasant occupation, but almost a duty, because you actually had to see things in their locations, and you built up a view of Europe which was an extraordinarily varied and rich one; one in which the antitheses between the North and the South structured an imaginative world in which you knew some things directly, but you never saw them together. Symonds is remarkable in that context because he had a very severely weak chest, which led him to live in Switzerland for much of his later life. From Switzerland, he would make these forays down into Italy, which were dangerous to his health. In fact, he finally died in the considerable heat of a Roman summer, a result of his weak chest, and at the relatively early age of 53.
But while in Southern Europe he has the North in his imagination – I was thinking about that in relation to Leeds. He imagines, for example. the English celebration of Christmas, he makes a wonderful contrast between what he calls a Northern cathedral, an industrial town where Christmas is taking place, when previously, that same day, he’s been to St. Peter’s, and he’s seen the Pope celebrating Christmas. You have to go and see the Pope celebrating Christmas in full evening dress and white tie, and so on (as a distinguished foreigner you’re admitted), and he thinks how different it is from this Northern cathedral town. And this is the great point: he says that we have angels in the North, but we have to borrow from the Orient these angelic beings who create the spirit of bonhomie that surrounds our Christmas.
Now one could say therefore that the imaginative world of Symonds has built up this store of images, and although he knew a good deal of original representations of Antinous, he certainly didn’t know as many as we have in this exhibition, and some of the ones that he thought most of, he had never seen at all. For example, he did know as it happens – and we probably would have been surprised if he hadn’t – the great Mondragone head, what he called ‘the colossal head of the Louvre’. But he dismissed it straight away, so we need no longer talk about it this evening. He said that it must be criticised for a certain vacancy and lifelessness, full stop. But he had never seen the San Ildefonso Group, the main subject of his essay on Antinous, since it was located in Madrid. As far as I can see, he never speaks of the version of it by Joseph Nollekens, and I suppose there’s absolutely no reason why he should have seen it in its country house setting. But he did think he knew how to judge the Ildefonso piece, because (as he said) we can examine it through photographs, and he actually insisted that an engraving of it be made specially for the travel book in which his essay on Antinous of 1879 occurs.